China’s Avatar Cliff may not be something new to the world. The marvellous cliff that apparently hangs over the waters were made familiar by James Cameron’s epic classic Hollywood movie Avatar. Now there’s something more to be get jaw-dropped at this cliff. Towering more than 300 metres up the cliff face, the world’s highest outdoor lifts whisk brave tourists up to breath-taking views.
The Bailong Elevators
The three double-decker elevators called the Bailong Elevators in central China’s Zhangjiajie Forest Park zip up the cliffside in just 88 seconds. This is a speedy attraction as domestic tourism slowly recovers in China after the corona virus pandemic forced strict travel measures earlier this year. The lifts deliver tourists to the top of the sandstone rock face that inspired the fictional jungle moon of Pandora, home to the blue-hued Na’vi people, in the 2009 smash hit film.
“One of the main reasons we came is that the site inspired Avatar,” says Qiao Ke, 45, who travelled to the lifts with his family. “The film really made an impression on us. And it really is beautiful here.” “Its geological structure is very suited to using elevators as a means of transport, so we made this Bailong Elevator,” explains Liu Jie, the director of the company managing the lift. In English, the name can be literally translated to the “Hundred Dragons Elevator”.
“Before, there was only a cable car with limited capacity, so tourists had to wait a long time,” Liu adds. The alternative was to brave a three-hour climb on foot. Construction of the elevators started in 1999, and they opened in 2002. At 326m, the three elevators were officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest outdoor lifts in 2015.
“It’s super-fast,” retiree Jin Shihao says after completing the ride, which costs $19 for a return ticket. About 8,000 tourists take the lifts every day. However, numbers are still significantly down from an average of 14,000 before the pandemic.
Is Bailong the tallest in the world?
While Bailong is the tallest outdoor lift in the world, AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng Gold Mine in South Africa, which opened in 1986 and makes a single descent of 2,283m in three minutes grabs the Guinness World record.
According to Guinness World Records: “It is more than 4.5 times further than those in the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. A second elevator then takes miners even lower, to 3,597m. Each day, the lift ferries 4,000 workers down to the mine – 120 workers at a time in three-level steel cages, at speeds of up to 40 miles (64 kilometres) per hour. It first operated in 1986.”